A few years ago Michele and I were in Italy and drove north from Lake Garda to the Alto Adige. As we left the city of Trentino and headed toward Bolzano (Bolzen), the countryside started to look more German than Italian. Even the road signs changed: they were written in both German and Italian. This is a fascinating region with characteristics of two cultures.
I accepted an invitation to a seminar and panel discussion of wines of the Alto Adige that can age.
The moderator of the panel was Tim Gaiser, MS. Tobias Zingerle of Kaltern Caldaro, Martin Foradori Hofstâtter of Tenuta J. Hofstâtter, and Ines Giovanett of Castelfeder made up the panel.
Alto Adige, also know as Südtirol due to its deep-rooted bicultural heritage, is Italy’s northernmost wine region. Located at the foot of the Alps and the Dolomites, the region borders on Austria and Switzerland. The Alps protect it from inclement weather from the North and the Atlantic, while the Dolomites protect the vineyards from the cold, damaging winds from the east. Along with its proximity to the Mediterranean and Lake Garda, this makes it an excellent region to grow grapes. The vineyards range from 600 to 3,300 feet and the soil is mainly porphyry, limestone and slate rock with glacial deposits of gravel, sand and clay. It is interesting to note that in the summer, the temperature in Bolzano is higher than in Palermo in Sicily. The people that live here call their region the Sud Tyrol and themselves Tyroleans. The food is decidedly Austrian with only a hint of Italy. Ham is called Speck and they have a cheese called Weinkase Lagrein and bread called Schuttelbrot.
Mr.Gaiser said that in the Alto Adige 70% of the production is from 13 cooperatives, 25% from 40 larger wine estates and 5% from over 100 private producing winegrowers.
Südtirol Wein/Vini Alto Adige: Wines of the Italian Alps
The first two wines are made from the Pinot Bianco grape. This is a grape variety that I feel is not appreciated and under valued. I have had wines made from the Pinot Bianco grape from the Alto Adige that have been 20 years old and have stood the test of time. Therefore I was not surprised to see the older examples showing so well.
Mr. Zingerle said the Pinot Bianco was the local wine of the area, the everyday wine. He said that the training system was pergola and guyot trellises and hand harvesting was the rule.
Kaltern Caldaro Pinot Bianco Vial 2014 & 2008 DOC 100% Pinot Bianco. Kaltern Caldaro is a co-op with 440 members. The 300 hectares of vines are located around Lake Kaltern, the warmest lake in the Alps. The Vial vineyard is between 500 and 550 meters and is located at the foot of the Mendel Mountain range. Whole cluster pressing takes place, then a natural must clarification and slow fermentation at 16% of which 10% is in large casks. The wine remains on the lees for 5 months and is then filtered and bottled in March. The residual sugar is 3g/l for the 2014 and 3.5 for the 2008. It is a full bodied wine with hints of apple, pear and a touch of almonds. The 2008 was showing very well with pear flavor becoming more pronounced. Mr. Zingerle said that all the production must go to the cooperative.
Cantina Terlano Pinot Bianco Riserva Vorberg 2012 & 1999 DOC 100% Pinot Bianco Cantina Terlano is a cooperative founded in 1893. Today there are 143 growers with 165 hectares of vines. The Vorberg vineyard is in the Southern Tyrol facing the slopes of the Monzoccolo in the Terlano DOC area. The vineyards are between 450 and 950 meters. Harvesting is manual, followed by a gentle pressing of whole grape clusters and clarification of the must by natural sedimentation. A slow fermentation takes place at a controlled temperature in 30HL barrels. Malolactic fermentation and aging on the lees in traditional wooden barrels for 12 months. The residual sugar is 3.2 for the 2012 and 2.5 for the 1999. Mr. Zingerle said that the winery was known for making white wines that can age and after tasting the 1999 I have to agree with him. The 2012 had aromas and flavors of citrus fruit, with hints of apple and a touch of grass and herbs. The 1999 was more subtle with a creamy finish and aftertaste. He added that 2012 and 1999 were very good vintages.
The panel members agreed that Gewürztraminer probably originated in Germany.
Mr. Hofstâtter said that the grapes for Gewürztraminer are picked when they are over ripe and the harvest usually takes place at the end of September and the beginning of October. The training system is pergola and guyot. He also said that a touch of smoke is typical of the wine.
He said that wines made from this grape are very aromatic with hints of lychees, mango, peach and apricot and they can age.
Tramin Gewürztraminer Nussbaumer 2013 & 2009 DOC 100% Gewürztraminer This cooperative was founded in 1889. 100% Gewürztraminer. The 14 hectares of vineyards are at 300 to 400 meters and the soil is calcareous and gravel in the area of Tramin and Montagna. There is a gentle pressing of the grapes immediately after harvest. Fermentation is in temperature controlled stainless steel tanks and malolactic fermentation does not take place. Residual sugar is 8g/l for the 2013 and 8.6 for the 2009.
Tenuta J. Hofstâtter Gewürztraminer Vigna Kolbenof 2013 & 2006 DOC 100% Gewürztraminer. This is a family run winery. There are 50 hectares of vines between 250 and 750 meters on the slopes on both sides of the River Adige. The grapes for this wine are grown in the hamlet of Söll overlooking Tramin. The grapes are lightly crushed and the juice is left in contact with the skin for a few hours. The juice is clarified using natural sediment and fermentation takes place in temperature controlled tanks. The wine is on the lees for eight months and the lees are stirred up once a week (battonage). It is a full bodied wine with hints of apricot, peach and passion fruit. The residual sugar is 8.4g/l for the 2013 and 8.2 for the 2006. Only the Vigna on the label guarantees the origin of the single vineyard in the Alto-Adige.